According to media reports, and its own Facebook page, the English Defence League (EDL), a right-wing group opposed to so-called Muslim extremism, has apparently withdrawn its acceptance of an offer by the American Terry Jones to speak at an EDL rally in Luton (a place of growing conflict between Islamists and right-wingers) on 5 February 2011.
Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville (Florida), originally came to global prominence in late summer through his advocacy of an ‘International Burn a Koran Day’, to coincide with the ninth anniversary of 9/11.
We reported at that time (http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=560) on the British public’s views about whether the US government should let Jones proceed with his plans or not (although, in practice, the US authorities were powerless to stop him).
On learning of Jones’s intention to address an EDL rally, and potentially inciting animosity to British Muslims, Home Secretary Theresa May had been actively looking into the possibility of denying him entry to this country.
Her action prompted The Sun newspaper to commission YouGov to ask a representative online sample of 1,810 adult Britons aged 18 and over on 13 and 14 December 2010 whether Jones should or should not be allowed to enter the UK.
55% of the whole sample thought that Jones should not be permitted entry. Women (59%) were more opposed than men (50%), while hostility to Jones increased steadily with age, from 38% of 18-24s to 64% of the over-60s.
Regionally, the variation was from 50% in London and Northern England to 63% in Scotland. Those who voted Labour or Liberal Democrat in this year’s general election were slightly more inclined to want Jones banned from the country than Conservatives.
32% overall considered that Jones should be admitted to the UK, with men (42%) markedly more in favour than women (22%). Other demographic differences were much smaller, even age (the over-60s, for example, being just 8% less in favour of Jones being allowed into the UK than the 18-24s).
However, the latter age cohort was evidently not very knowledgeable about the matter since 26% were ‘don’t knows’, twice the national average for this question.
These replies do not necessarily give us clues as to the motivation of respondents. Thus, it is impossible to know whether those who supported Jones’s entry to the UK were simply upholding a generic principle of freedom of expression or actually agreed with his views.
Similarly, those who wanted him kept out of the UK may have objected to his opinions about Islam or just been concerned about the threat of civil disorder, including retaliatory protests by Muslims, in the event of Jones being granted entry.
The full data table for the survey is available at: